The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mediator livid at Jaswal plainspeak

Guwahati, Oct. 16: The man who could be the main mediator between Ulfa and Delhi if the peace process resumes has demanded the recall of the general-officer-commanding (GOC) of the army’s 4 Corps, Lt Gen. B.S. Jaswal, for “making statements aimed at derailing the ongoing efforts to bring the rebel outfit to the negotiating table”.

Hiranya Saikia, a key member of the Ulfa-constituted People’s Consultative Group (PCG), wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday, demanding action against Gen. Jaswal. He said the 4 Corps chief had issued a “threatening” statement to families of Ulfa militants.

“The GOC’s statement will vitiate the atmosphere for a peaceful solution of the insurgency problem and negate our efforts to take the fledgling peace process forward,” Saikia said today.

The senior army officer said in Guwahati on September 26 that families of Ulfa militants must convince “their wayward sons” to abjure violence. Otherwise, he warned, the families should be ready to receive their bodies.

He also asked Ulfa militants to surrender and partake of the rehabilitation package if they did not want to die.

“Gen. Jaswal’s statement is contradictory to the stand taken by the political leadership of the country to settle the vexed Ulfa problem through negotiations. Even in the past, army chiefs have conceded that there should be a political solution to insurgency,” Saikia said.

Ulfa too criticised Gen. Jaswal, who heads counter-insurgency operations in Assam, for issuing such a “threatening and provocative statement, which is uncalled for from a disciplined army officer in a civilised democracy”. The statement was published in the latest edition of the outfit’s bulletin, Freedom.

Terming the GOC’s utterances “unfortunate”, Saikia said the army officer should not have issued such a statement after knowing that more than 10,000 Assamese youths had fallen to bullets of security forces in the past 17 years.

“How many more bodies will be required to convince the GOC that there must be a political solution through talks instead of military means to end insurgency'” he asked.

Saikia, who is known to be close to Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, said he was involved in the efforts to broker peace talks between Ulfa and the government since 2001, much before the PCG was constituted by the outfit.

“Formation of the PCG by Ulfa to pave the way for direct talks with the Centre was the result of sustained efforts by various quarters for several years and nobody should be allowed to create hurdles in its way,” he added.

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